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Harper's Weekly 08/13/1898


[Special Correspondence ofHarper's Weekly.”]

Chaffee's Headquarters, July 10, 1898.

It is Sunday at the trenches. A truce is on, and the
band that helped the wounded in the wake of Chaffee's
charging brigade is playing “Calvary.”


It is the most cheerful spot on a battle-field—the
trenches—and a comparatively safe spot for the non-com-
batant even during action. Men at the front see their
comrades drop, usually, without an outery, and pass on, if
advancing, under an excitement of conflict that quickly
makes them callous. At the trenches, and after sharp
action is over, the dead are buried; the wounded and the
sick are carried to the rear—to be seen no more, unless
they come back to take a place in the ranks again. The
firing dies down to the popping duel of sharp-shooters
and the uncanny whistle of a vagrant shell. A short peace
of reaction follows, which quiets the strained nerves, but
does not last long; the men get restless and impatient
quickly. But while they may sit in the sun by day and
sleep in the mud at night, as they did here before Santi-
ago, they are saved contact with that ghastly road of
choking odors and choking memories that leads through
the rear, and to the still pitiful pictures under the hospital
tents at Siboney. Moreover, during action the Spanish
fire sweeps that same road between the base of the hill
under the trenches and the woods, and makes the zone
of just getting to the front or just getting away more dan-
gerous even than the front itself; and then to the man who
must go to the rear there has always been the inglorious
and enraging possibility of being potted in the back by a
sharp-shooter from a royal palm or a mango-tree. Lastly,
the bands play up and down the lines, and, especially when
a truce comes, a curious spirit of holiday pervades the air.
There is nothing more incongruous, nothing more gro-
tesque, on the field after a battle than the sight of a bass-
drum or a big bass-horn lying, as I saw several on the
afternoon of July 1, just under the conquered Spanish
trenches. But it is very fine and inspiriting next morning
to hear both booming to a Sousa march or a jolly negro
melody; and it is moving beyond words just now to hear
“Calvary” swelling reverently overhead, and breaking
gently against the still green spires that far up the valley
thrust themselves now and then into cloud-land.

“Hosanna! Glory to God!”

The wind is gentle and cool, the air is clear and brill-
iant, the sun shines, the mountains are divine in majesty
and peace, but it is glory to the God of Battles that band
is playing now, for the memories of Caney still bleed, and
with more than half a circle of bayonets we invest San-
tiago; a truce is on, and we are expecting the Spaniard to
give up his plucky fight.

Last night Major-General Lawton, who is never to be
caught napping, for the reason that he never seems to
sleep (I believe he never went to his cot the first week
except to have the shirt in which he came ashore restored
to its original color) shot out his right flank a mile and a
half, so that, with the Cubans, out of whom he can get
more work than any other general in the army, he holds
El Cobre road—the last avenue of escape for the Spanish
to the hills.

General Ludlow is next the Cubans, and keen, watch-
ful, untiring Chaffee—a major-general too, since his
reckless courage and strong fight at Caney—touches Lud-
low's left flank on one side, and, on the other, the right
flank of that nimble old veteran, who scales trees for per-
sonal reconnoissance and mounts his horse for battle from
an ambulance—General Wheeler. Of this division, and
of the whole line, indeed, Colonel Roosevelt of course has
the shortest air-line from his rifle-pits to the Spanish
trenches. Kent's division starts from Wheeler, following
ever the throttling sweep of a circle.

So that the wings of the army are more than half shut,
like the wings of our bird of freedom when he drops
through the air for prey. Therefore we have sent the
Spaniard word that unless he gives up the fight this day
the awful rending of beak and claws shall begin again,
and the iron wings shall be folded closer. Meanwhile the
little men in light blue sit calmly on the edge of their
trenches and smoke cigarettes, while the big men in dark
blue sit on the edge of theirs and good-humoredly cast to-
bacco juice towards Santiago. Down in the hollows mid-
way between the lines are Spanish soldiers and American
soldiers gathering yams and mangoes, with only a narrow
cocoanut grove between them. For half an hour I watch-
ed two of the Americans trying to round up and drive
into our lines half a dozen horses that were running loose
in a field and belonged to Spanish officers, until a major,
fearing that the mischievous dare-devils might bring on
an engagement during a truce, sent a lieutenant down
to stop them. The lieutenant rode a gray mule as a flag
of truce, and I rode down with him, but the Spaniards
paid as little attention to us as they paid to the men we
were after, and the lieutenant rebuked these men with a
stern severity in his voice that was not, I'm sure, in his
heart, and they let the horses alone. At one point along
the line two Spanish officers came towards our trenches
and signalled for our officers to approach, which they did.
The Spaniards said they had been trying to get over for
two days, and I am told they were good fellows; that
they brought along a little rum, and Spaniard and Amer-
ican drank mutual healths, and swore with equal hearti-
ness at the Cuban, and declared that motive of the war a
wicked shame. And by-and-by, when peace was come,
they would have a dinner at the Waldorf, and talk it all
over, and be decorously merry.

However, the rumor now is that the Spaniards are not
going to surrender to-day, and we begin firing at noon.
Meanwhile we have given the enemy nine round days of
fair weather in which to recover his spirits, gather yams,
and make good and ready for his fight in the last ditch.

There are many others besides us who are anxious
to get into Santiago—eighteen thousand others, indeed
—the half-starved refugees who came out of Santi-
ago when we announced that we meant to shell the
town, and are waiting at the little conquered town
of Caney for the time when they may go home again.
I was there yesterday afternoon under the guidance of
the Major, with whom I came down on the Iroquois,
and it is a distressing scene. The town is built about
a plaza, and the houses—those that are not thatched
hovels—are low, and have blue walls and red-tiled roofs.
At the head of the plaza stands a big and very old cathe-
dral, which is a storehouse just now for Uncle Sam, whose
generous right hand reaches daily from the door to give
rations to his enemy as to himself, while the left stays
under his coat tails unknowing. They are mostly women
and children, the refugees—white women, yellow wo-
men, brown women, and black women; and babies black,
babies brown, babies yellow, and white babies; ludicrous
mites, some of them, and nearly all as naked as they were
at birth. Some of the women were the wives and widows
of Spanish officers, and the few men in the crowd were
sick or aged or straggling Cubans. Most of the refugees
expected to be out of Santiago only a day or two, so even
the well-to-do were hungry, and the poor and the recon-
centrados were nearly starved. The distribution of ra-
tions, in spite of priest and soldiers, was in consequence
little more than a moblike fight for hardtack. It is such
a town as would have about one thousand inhabitants in
our States. Imagine, then, how these refugees are crowd-
ed! The plaza is a swarm of women and children; the
streets, the curb stones, the narrow sidewalks, are massed
with women and children; so are the porches, door-steps,
doorways, hallways; the back yards and side yards are full,
and so is the little creek that runs between the town and
the shattered stone fort which Chaffee stormed. And
always the cry is, “Mucha hambre! mucha hambre!” But
when they are not hungry they are as laughing and light-
hearted as though they had not a care in the world and
would never get hungry again. Not one over five years
of age and under sixty but knew the Major—who had
been playing the part of a summer Santa Claus in the
town—and had a smile for him; and for each the Major
had a smile, while the fat little priest who gave out the
bread called him his brother, and embraced him as such.
And how the dusky groups of roguish girls in the porches
flashed dark eyes and white teeth at him as he rode by,
and how the Major smiled back and loved it all!

The Major has done his work well. During the fight
around Caney, his duties led him several times into the
“jaws of hell,” as he says, and he went in—not without
flinching, for the Major is frank, but he went in. Once
he was sent with a guard of five troopers to find General

“The bullets in one lane were like hail,” said the Ma-
jor. “`Don't go down there, sir,' said a soldier. `You'll
be killed. General Ludlow is back there.' I rode back
through that awful lane. `Where is General Ludlow?'
I said to a soldier. `General Ludlow—' he said, and a
bullet caught him in the forehead, and he fell dead. I
was sent to another place, and another, and I couldn't find
him. Finally I went to an old officer. `Colonel,' I said,
`I've been looking for General Ludlow for two hours, and
can't find him. I've got five troopers here. I'm not mar-
ried myself, and of course I don't care for myself, but
they're all married men, and I've got to think of them.
I dont' want to risk their lives any more. Now, I'm a ten-
derfoot, and I ask you frankly what ought I to do?' `Don't
you report to your superior officer,' said the Colonel,
`until you have found General Ludlow,' That was
enough for me, and off I started, but I said to the troop-
ers, `You needn't come; not a one of you.' But every one
came. Once I got ahead of our own line. I heard a click,
looked up, and there was a Spanish picket-post not fifty
yards away, with their guns levelled. I lay down on my
horse and skipped. The bullets whistled, but I wasn't
touched. Finally I did find him. `This way, Webb, my
boy,' he called from the woods. It was hot in there.
`Stoop, sir; stoop,' said a soldier; and as I stooped the
poor fellow himself got a bullet in the breast. `Here you
are,' called the general, who was standing straight, with
his shoulders squared. I straightened up my backbone
too, though I never felt so humble in my life, and I gave
my message and started away. When I had got off fifty
yards the general called me back through that death-hole.
I left again, and if he didn't call me back again! `Gen-
eral,' I said, `for God's sake, don't call me back any more.'
He laughed, and didn't; and here I am.”

So, now that promotions rustle the Cuban air, the Major
says frankly, and with logic and justice; “If I am a staff-
officer, put me back in the rear and let me be ornamental.
If I am to have duties steadily on the firing-line and ahead
of it, as I had, and do them, as I did—here's So-and-so
and So-and-so being made colonel, brigadier-general, and
major-general—what do I get?”

Noon now, and the Spaniards decline to surrender. We
shall begin bombarding at four. Meanwhile here is the
story of the day's advance towards Santiago, brought up
by a croaker from the rear: The correspondent's ham-
mock swung, at corps headquarters, from the limb of a
mango-tree. The siege-guns were behind because the
roads were bad; the pack-mules tramped through mud;
the wagons creaked through mire; and men on foot—even
the wounded one day—waded the bridgeless creek four or
five times between front and the rear, and yet a body of
volunteers and an engineer or two were busy all morning
cutting a wagon-road through thick brush to the top of a
low hill about three-quarters of a mile away. At noon,
while staff-officers, aides, and attachés were at lunch, came
the order to move camp. Lunch stopped short, off hus-
tled aide and attaché, the big wagons rolled in, and there
was a great falling of tents and a mighty bustle for fear
the wagons might roll out again before each man had his
outfit tossed in. Such was the hurry that even the solemn
and elegant attachés hurriedly helped to fold their own
things. Out came the guard of mounted troopers; out
the guard of infantry; out the Spanish prisoners; and out
the correspondents, who sought to keep in touch with the
source of the done, the doing, and the undone; out came
the commanding general, mounted, and with his left foot
swathed; out the very tall aide and the courtly inspector-
general and other members of the staff; out the attachés
and their orderlies and servants—all mounted—every-
body mounted except the infantry, the Spanish prisoners,
and the correspondents, whose horses were left behind
at Tampa. The general led the way, followed by the very
tall aide, the courtly inspector-general, the other staff-
officers, the attachés, the troopers, the three big army-
wagons with their six-mule teams, the infantry, the Span-
ish prisoners, and the correspondents—and the long train
wound laboriously along and up the wagon-road cut
that morning through thick brush by engineer and volun-
teer, when the one road from front to rear was muddy
and bridgeless, and the siege-guns were still where they
staid till the end—behind. Now and then the proces-
sion halted for axemen to clean out a bush and broaden
the road here and there, but in time it crawled slowly to
the top of the hill. There the general swept horizon and
hill with his eye for perhaps three minutes. Then he
turned his horse. The very tall aide turned his horse.
The courtly inspector-general, the aides, and attachés
turned theirs. Turned, too, the heavy wagons, creaking,
and the six mules each; turned troopers, infantry, Span-
ish prisoners; turned correspondent—aside into the grass
to laugh; and as the long train wound up, so wound it
down—down the trail that engineer and volunteer had
laboriously cut through thick brush that morning, and
back to the same still smoking camp. There the general
swept the scene with his eye, rode to a fresh spot a little
way off, and halted. And there, one hundred yards from
where it sat before, sits the general's camp to-day. The
hammock of the correspondent swings from the same
limb of the mango-tree.

The poor wounded have had a hard time. Apparently
the powers thought there were not going to be any
wounded; and, without doubt, few on Cuban soil dreamed
there would be so many. The wounded at Las Guasimas
were carried three miles to Siboney by hand, for when
that fight was over not a wagon for ammunition, supplies,
or hospital needs was on shore.

Especially at Caney, men not seriously wounded lay
for hours awaiting their turn after the men who were
worse hurt. Nowhere were hospital preparations complete
enough in tents, medicine, nurses, or surgeons, on the field,
in the rear, or at Siboney. At Siboney the surgeons had
not time to get the names, or even to count the num-
ber brought in. If you wanted to see a wounded friend,
you had to walk the aisle between the row of bandaged
soldiers, until you found him. And the way those brave
fellows took their suffering! Sometimes the jolting am-
bulances were too much, and soldiers would pray for the
driver, when he stopped, not to start again. One man
groaned. “Grit yer teeth,” said another, an old Irish
sergeant, sternly—“grit yer teeth; there's others that's
hurt here except you.”

The sergeant himself was shot through the head, and
thereafter no man in that ambulance uttered a sound. It
was the slightly hurt, the men who were wounded in the
leg or arm, who made the most noise.

Three men were brought into a hospital from San Juan.
The surgeon took the one who was groaning. He had a
mere scratch on one leg. Another was dressed, and as the
third sat silently on a chair, still another was attended,
and another, before the surgeon turned to the man who
was so patiently awaiting his turn.

“Where are you hurt?”

The man pointed to his left side.


“Yes, sir.”

I have told of that wounded courtier Cosby, who, fever-
ish, trembling, with a scraped temple, a badly wounded
hand, and a bullet in his chest, staggered painfully some
ten miles, waving off all assistance, and confessing at last,
as he sat on the beach, in the broiling sun, waiting to be
taken to a hospital-ship, that if it were handy, and could
be got without too much trouble, he thought he would
like a canned peach. Well, out from the firing-line at
Caney staggered a soldier with half his face shot away,
and went staggering to the rear without aid. On the way
he met a mounted staff-officer, and he raised his hand to
his hatless, bleeding forehead, in a stern salute, and with-
out a gesture for aid, staggered on. The officer's eyes filled
with tears.

“Lieutenant,” said a trooper, “I'm wounded.”

“Can you get to the rear without help?”

“I think I can, sir,” and he started. After twenty
paces he pitched forward—dead. His wound was
through the heart.

Such are the men who sleep in Cuban soil, who lie in
the hospitals and on the transports at Siboney and on the
big white relief-ship, that was as grateful a gift from
home as though it had come from the Almighty Himself.
And such are the men who might have been saved death
or suffering if we had had, as we should have had, a
right proportion of sixty cannon instead of sixteen. The
source of the trouble seems to have been in our under-
estimate of the Spaniards in the trenches. And yet the
Spaniards have always been famous for guerilla warfare
and strong fighting from behind breastworks. In times
when the Spanish sailor would take to his knees rather
than climb a mast in a storm, his brother on shore and in-
trenched was giving Napoleon such trouble as that gen-
eral rarely had with any foe.

It is now half past three, and firing will begin at four.
An army buckboard, drawn by a mule and driven by a
large gentleman in a pith helmet, is moving along the
base of the hill. Here and there a major or colonel, or
perhaps a brigadier-general, looks stern. Some of the
captains smile. A lieutenant or two grins broadly, and
the sarcastic private in the trenches curses bitterly. Our
commanding general is passing by.

I have just come down from the trenches to Roose-
velt's tent. The hill under the firing-line looks like the
abode of cave-dwellers, so burrowed is it with bomb-
proofs, which are merely shallow earth caves dug into
the side of a hill with the point of a bayonet, and covered
with flat projecting roofs of planks and layers of dirt.
The men dug bomb proofs and trenches most willingly,
especially the negro troopers. “Foh God,” said one, as
he swung his pick at dusk after the fight of San Juan,
“I never thought I'd git to love a pick befoh!”

The men up at the trenches are ready. Their cartridges
are piled along the edges of the pits—in the tops of corn-
beef cans, on pieces of boards, in little hollows scooped
from the dirt—and everybody is eager and expectant.
Sergeant Borrowe, bronzed and grimy, is at the breech of
his long dynamite-gun, as keen for another experiment as
a child with a Christmas toy that he has not fully mas-
tered. A young German stands at a machine-gun not
far away.

“It iss nervous at first,” he says, “just waiting. But
after the shooting begins it iss all right. I hear no bullets
—nutting—the gun makes so much noise. Two of my
men were killed the udder day, and I shoot on for two
hours and not know it.”

Across the air-line from Roosevelt's outermost trench
I could see a group of Spanish officers ride hastily to the
little house opposite and then gallop along the line. Those
fellows seem to do things with great ceremony across
there. The officers were evidently giving orders when to
begin fire, for, as they passed, the straw hats began to
drop out of sight in the Spanish trenches.
Pretty soon the Spanish flag went up, about
one hundred yards from the still flying flag
of truce. Then down came the white flag,
and up it went again—whimsically. Then
a Spaniard seized it, shook it across at the
Americans, and pulled it down permanently.
But no Spaniard fired. He rarely does first;
he is too polite, I suppose.

So we are waiting in Roosevelt's tent for
our signal-gun, which is to thunder out on
the right flank. A storm is coming. There
is vertical lightning up and down the big
black mountains in the east. The wind is
high, and blowing the plumes of the palm
towards Santiago. After it comes a thick
gray mist of rain from the mountains, and
the drops strike the tent overhead. It is
three minutes after four, and no signal-gun
yet. I suppose we are waiting for the storm
to pass.

“Have you read Salammbô?” asks a voice
outside, with an intonation that one hears
in a Harvard class-room; “and do you re-
member Hanno, the fat general, who lay in
the shade and scratched himself with a
golden spatula?”

Nobody answers; that first shot comes!

An hour and a half later, and the firing
has quieted down to the popping duel of the
sharp-shooters. We are in the tent again, and
an occasional Mauser ball whistles overhead.
It is curious, but even the tent-flaps seem to
to be some sort of a protection against those
nasty little insects. The bombardment was,
after all, very mild, and this is how it seemed:
When the first gun roared to the right, a
rattling ran down the line towards us, and
the Mausers began to pop and sing. Ev-
erybody sprang to his feet and followed Col-
onel Roosevelt up the hill, each man bend-
ing low to lessen the danger surface that
his anatomy presented to the bullets coming
over the hill. Davis forgot his glasses, and
coolly went back for them. I waited for
him a while—a very little while—but when
several bullets spat around me rather vi-
ciously and rather near, I accepted the hos-
pitable invitation of two Rough Riders and
crawled under a bomb-proof, between Lieu-
tenant Greenway and Captain Llewellyn.
There were about twenty of us in there.
The planks overhead were thin, the cracks
between them were wide, and the dirt on top
was shallow—very shallow. “We're all
right except for the shrapnel,” said the cap-
tain several times. Every now and then a
soldier would stick his head outside, or go
out to light his pipe or for some other rea-
son, and the captain would call him down

“Get down there! We don't want to be
bothered with wounded men now. Get

We could hear the steady flutter of the
machine-gun, the rapid-fire Colt's going like
an old-fashioned mowing machine in a mea-
dow, and now and then a shell.

“All right,” repeated the captain, “except
for the shrapnel.”

And the shrapnel were friendly; I could
not tell that a ball touched the bomb-proof.
The Spaniards were not firing heavily.
They were evidently saving their ammuni-
tion and waiting for another wild American
charge—which never came; and so the bom-
bardment ended in about an hour, as the rain
had ended—in a slow patter, an occasional
drop, and then in stillness. Indeed, I can
almost liken an action of this sort at the
trenches to an expected rain-storm in which
there is a good deal of lightning. It thun-
ders, the drops begin to patter, and you run
for shelter, and you lie in comfort and in
safety, except for the chance of being struck
by lightning, which flashes sometimes un-
comfortably near. By-and-by the storm
passes, the rain quiets down to random
drops, and you come out into the air, look
around at the heavens, and stretch yourself.

Loud cheering rose at the trenches as we
turned away, and somebody said that Ser-
geant Borrowe had tossed a Spanish cannon,
a tree, and a mass of mingled breastwork
and Spaniards into the air with one charge
from his terrible gun. At General Wheeler's
headquarters, further down, the report was
that the Rough Riders, without orders, had
charged along their air-line and had cap-
tured the Spanish trenches. Somebody said
the one rumor was not true, but nobody
seemed to think the other at all improbable.

There was but one fatality on our side
that afternoon, and that was a tragedy. On
the left flank Captain Rowell of the Second
Infantry was instantly killed by a Spanish
shell. As a first lieutenant he had waited
twenty years for promotion, and his promo-
tion outran his death but a few days.


Next morning, after the Sunday bombard-
ment, we sent word over to ask the Spaniard
if now he would be good. General Toral
replied that he would at least be better if the
home government would let him. So we
gave him time until the following Thursday
in which to communicate with Madrid. In
the beginning he declined any and all terms
of surrender; then an unconditional surren-
der; then he was willing to march out with
the full honors of war, bearing his arms, with
his flag flying, and the American soldier do-
ing it homage, to march into another prov-
ince, and thus be ready to fight us again
some day. Now he was considering any
terms that did not involve humiliation to
Spanish honor and Spanish pride. Mean-
while the heroic figure of General Miles had
appeared one fine morning, superbly mount-
ed, and a reverent “Praise God!” ran along
the lines. And General Randolph, too, of
the artillery. I saw the latter at the front
but once. He disappeared then, but I no-
ticed that guns began to roll up from the
rear as though they had wings, and I knew
the siege-guns, if needed, would follow, even
if they had mountains to climb. There was
nobody who did not have a cheerful eye on
General Randolph.

Thursday came, and the word went around
that the Spaniard had come down from his
high horse. He would stack his arms, march
out, evacuate the province, surrender all the
troops in it—some 20,000—and in return we
should feed them and carry them back to
Spain. The sunny air straightway was rent
with cheers. The sickest man in one regi-
ment sprang from his blanket and led all his
comrades in a foot-race for the trenches,
there to join in the hallelujahs. Still, the
doubting were suspicious. The wily Span-
iard must be up to some game. Perhaps he
was contemplating general peace at Madrid,
and perhaps he was merely “working” our
opulent government for the transportation
of as many of his troops as possible, where
sooner or later they would have to go—
home. Maybe he really thought we were
50,000 strong—a French refugee had brought
out word that such was the Spanish belief
at Santiago—and on this supposition not one

(Continued on page 804.)

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